Monday, 10 October 2016

Evolution and Culture Are Orthogonal

(Orthogonal = at right angles. Therefore changes in one do not bring about changes in another.)

Evolution cares about two things: that you breed and that some of the kids survive to reproduce themselves. It does not care who you are. The most ugly, ignorant, violent, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, wife-beating, child-molesting people can and usually do breed, sometimes prolifically with multiple partners. Evolution does not care. It does not care that the children grow up as the images of their parents. It only cares that those kids reproduce.

Evolution does not care if you painted the Mona Lisa. It does not care if you discovered penicillin. It does not care if you wrote The Golden Bowl or The Golden Bough or discovered the Golden Ratio. It does not care if you proved The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra or invented Set Theory. It does not care if you design dresses or skyscrapers, it does not care if you won the Indy 500 or the Wimbledon Men’s Final. It does not care if you are rich or poor, polite or an asshole. Evolution does not care about human culture, politics, science or morality.

The only dysfunction Evolution recognises is failure to breed.

(I am evolutionarily dysfunctional. Smart, pretty people often are.)

The Vulgar Evolutionists have a huge problem with evolution: they want it to be the explanation of the current human condition, and they want it to be a process that will guarantee that the present condition is not dysfunctional and the future development of the human race will be in a socially-approved direction. Accuse them of that directly and they will deny it. Read their books and articles you will get the unmistakable impression that’s what they are saying. They have an evo-explanation for everything: even when those things are opposites. Without the link between culture and evolution, evolution is just another natural macro-process and of rather less relevance than digestion, breathing or sexual reproduction.

But Darwin said that that sexual reproduction is an explicit evolutionary mechanism: the male proposes, the female disposes. Amongst peacocks at least. So far, so benign. At some stage Darwin or his publicist T H Huxley flipped the two around. The theory needed some window-dressing, and what could be better than the idea that well-brought-up Victorian ladies were executing Evolution’s Will in their choice of partners? Generalise this to the underclass and you get a bracingly-nihilisitic view of human sexual choice, which actually flatters the middle-classes: whereas the underclass female chooses her mates for thuggery because that’s how you survive in the underclass, the middle-class female chooses hers for education, manners and culture, because that’s how you thrive in the middle-class. Evolution, culture and progress all wrapped up in a big bag of middle-class smug.

It's tosh because evolution is the name of an effect, of which sexual reproduction is a cause: there is no process of "evolution", as there is of the water cycle. What there is a change in the total gene pool of a species (DNA differs between individuals: the genes shared by all members of the species is the common pool and the genes possessed by at least one member of the species is the total pool): either completely or in the proportions. It doesn't matter how this change occurs, only that it does. Species of microbe can evolve very quickly when exposed to anti-biopics. The change is not brought about by the microbes somehow changing their DNA, but from microbes with the wrong DNA being killed, so that only resistant ones survive and reproduce. Members of the species that are not exposed to the antibiotic will not change. This is what evolution is. It’s a by-product of the ODTAA of history. Evolution is just One Damn Thing After Another. There’s no plan, and today’s fit might well be tomorrow’s loser.

The change in content and distribution of the total gene pool of a species is brought about by many mechanisms: sexual reproduction is one, and typhoons, storms, droughts, harvests of plenty, harsh winters, plagues, flu epidemics, baking-hot summers and any other extreme natural events are others working to cull the weak, if the weakness is has a genetic cause. Longer-term mechanisms are changes in crops, plants, predators, pests, diseases and climate conditions. Animals breed, and Nature lets them know which ones will survive.

So evo-psycho gets it exactly backwards. Evolution does not cause traits in female mate-selection: traits in female mate-selection cause changes in the content and distribution of the total gene pool of the species, and If it persists, that's evolution. Women don't make the choices they make because they are aiming for evolutionary success (breeding children who breed): they make their choices based on whatever random reasons made sense to them at the time ("muscles", "steady job", "great cocaine", "I want a baby”) and if those choices are awful then if we're lucky their children won't go on to breed, and if we're unlucky, they will. The mechanisms that cause total gene pool change do not select the fit, but cull the weak.

That's why Darwin needed the PR.

That's why the human condition is unchanging: human tribes and organisation have no basis in DNA. (And if it did, nobody would be allowed to say so.) Evolution cannot cull for assholes, because assholes are made, not born. Evolution cannot cull for fat and ugly, because fat and ugly can reproduce - even if no-one wants to know how. It cannot cull for crazy women, because a crazy woman who wants children can fool a gullible man for long enough to get the job done, and then live off the court-mandated child support. It cannot cull for good-looking playboys who won't commit because, well, you know why. It can cull for sane, smart and pretty, because sane, smart, pretty people tend not to have children if they can avoid it. It cannot promote cultural competency - even the Bachs and Bernoullis only lasted a couple of generations. Families with generations of influential and culturally contributing children tend to have strong traditions and to be well-integrated into the upper-class. Culture, not DNA, promotes culture.

This may be why the human race is so darn successful (aka "over-runs the world"): the cultural variation needed to make a society resilaint to attack is not caused by DNA that can be bred out, or on the other hand, swamp the other traits and produce a race of assholes or wimps.

All these thoughts were triggered by reading this article, recommended by Scott Adams. I drew the exact opposite conclusions that he did. He thought that the article talked about a proof that evolution trumps everything. Reading it, I realised evolution has nothing to do with anything except breeding, and that life is about a lot more than breeding. Often so much more that breeding becomes a distraction. That may not be evolutionarily successful, but then who wants to be a success at something you have to be smart and self-controlled not to do?

No comments:

Post a Comment